Reverse Osmosis vs Distilled Water: Which is Better?

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reverse osmosis vs distilled water

When looking for ways to get the purest and healthiest water in your home, you’ve probably come across reverse osmosis systems and water distillers. While both of these provide contaminant-free water, they do so through entirely different methods. The water from both of these qualifies as purified water, but which one is better? Does it actually make a difference? By the end of this article, you should understand the differences between reverse osmosis and water distillation. You’ll also know which one is better suited for your specific needs so that you can start drinking healthier water right away.

What is Purified Water?

Water treated through either distillation or reverse osmosis is considered to be purified water. But what exactly is purified water? To be classified as purified, water must contain less than 10 parts per million (PPM) of total dissolved solids. This means that the water is 99% devoid of all substances, even minerals that are beneficial for your health. It also means that there are no contaminants present. Purification removes all bacteria, protozoa, chemicals, minerals, metals, and more from the water.

Reverse Osmosis

Reverse Osmosis Desalination plant
Reverse Osmosis Desalination plant, Credit: Wikipedia

This type of water purification uses high pressure to force water through a special reverse osmosis membrane. The membrane will remove all impurities from the water down to microscopic levels. This isn’t the end of the line though. Reverse osmosis systems generally contain several stages of filtration that will each remove certain substances from the water. At the end of the chain, a mineral filter is often used to add the essential minerals back into the water. This makes water from reverse osmosis systems very healthy to drink. Plus, these minerals also contribute to the taste of your water, so reverse osmosis water tends to taste crisp and refreshing.

Reverse osmosis systems are generally made to fit underneath your sink and hook into your home’s main water line. They will have their own dedicated faucet that will allow you to get purified water on tap. The filters will need to be replaced about twice a year, more often in some systems. They can be customized to include as many stages of filtration as you desire. Because of the versatility, RO systems can be a bit of an investment to get started with.

Pros
  • Completely purifies water
  • Adds essential minerals back in
Cons
  • Can be expensive

Distillation

Distillation Towers
Distillation Towers, Credit: Distillation Towers, Pikrepo

Distillation is a very specific way of purifying water. This process involves boiling the water to turn it into steam. Once the water boils, any impurities and contaminants are left behind. The steam is then collected in a condenser where it is subsequently cooled off. As the temperature drops, the steam is once again returned to a liquid state. The drops of water are then passed through a final carbon post-filter, the last stage of filtration that removes any chemicals that may have boiled off with the water. The end result is completely pure water that has only one part per million of dissolved solids. Naturally, this means that there are no minerals present to aid in your health and give the water any taste.

For distilling water at home, a countertop distiller is your best bet. These devices will distill and filter your water, removing all contaminants, even the ones that can potentially boil off with the water such as VOCs and other chemicals. Each gallon will take about 4-6 hours to produce and you’ll be consuming considerable electricity during this time. Similar to reverse osmosis systems, water distillers can be rather expensive to get started with and you’ll need to replace the carbon post-filter at regular intervals.

Pros
  • Completely purifies water
  • Only 1-PPM dissolved solids
Cons
  • Removes essential minerals
  • Tastes flat with no minerals
  • Time-consuming process

Which is Better for Your Health?

Since most people are looking for improved water sources to aid in good health, it makes sense to ask which of these purified waters is better for you. While both of these methods strip everything from the water, including essential minerals, reverse osmosis systems generally go a step further by adding those minerals back in. Drinking water that is devoid of minerals won’t necessarily make you deficient, but removing a source of healthy minerals from your diet should be done with caution. If you choose to drink distilled water, you should make sure to eat plenty of mineral-rich vegetables so that you don’t become deficient. Reverse osmosis water will give you all the benefits of completely purified water while also reintroducing the minerals that are good for you and add taste to the water, making it the better choice for drinking water.

Conclusion

While distilled water and water prepared through reverse osmosis are both forms of purified water, they’re still not the same thing. Reverse osmosis systems treat the water by passing it through several stages of filters and RO membranes that strip the water of all impurities. The final stage is often a mineral filter that will replace the essential minerals that were stripped during the purification process. The result is pure, yet delicious and healthy water that’s great for drinking.

Distilled water is purified down to just one part per million of dissolved solids. To do this, water is boiled, leaving the contaminants behind. The steam is collected and cooled, being filtered one last time in the process. In the end, pure, distilled water is left behind with no remaining impurities, including essential minerals. Both of these systems have their own benefits and drawbacks. Reverse osmosis water is healthier to drink overall, but which system you choose ultimately comes down to personal preference.


Featured image credit: Hold my ARK, Pexels